Wednesday, March 04, 2009

BC Sunday Action - 1 - KAZANGO

Hey, I suggest you read the comic first before you read my dumb comments, so I don't spoil the gags for you.Johnny Hart's early Sunday pages generally had more action and visual humor than his dailies. They were less dialogue oriented than his later strips where a character would stand in the same pose for 4 panels and read a pun out of Wiley's Dictionary. These Sundays are full of natural graphic design. I wish I had the actual full color Sundays to look at.
These drawings aren't slick, and on the surface even pretty crude; they have things in them that I would criticize in cartoonists' drawings if they were working for me - like small cramped areas, vague details and shapes here and there...but Hart makes up for it all with instinct and guts. Hart's pen is directly connected to his feelings, and it delineates expressions and poses not seen before; not pulled out of a stock cartoonist bag of tricks.

You can be slick but lack soul and I'd rather have the soul if I had to pick one thing. Of course if you have both - like Clampett or Avery, it's even better.
Hart's pacing and staging is comic-strip perfection.

These nose tickling expressions are hilarious and you can totally feel them. You could not write a gag like this. And not just anyone could even make it funny. It's Hart's capability of turning real feeling into a few well-placed lines that create the entertainment.

I always loved the way he drew teeth - ragged, uneven and chunky. You can tell a real cartoonist from a wimpy one by how much he loves to draw teeth in all their ugly uneven and funny glory. Like Johnny Hart and Jack Kirby. You know what I hate? When people just draw all the teeth in a blank white bar. What a waste of 32 of the most naturally funny parts of our anatomy! How dare modern animators smooth out God's beautiful imperfections!
The actual main gag in the cartoon itself is totally abstract and I love it. It's a real clever exploitation of cartoon absurdity.
It's nuts on a bunch of levels and you have to accept each nutty concept in turn in order to get to the next gag:
1) A flower can be sneezed so hard that it can spear itself through a tree - intact.
2) That action has a specific sound it makes - 'KAZANGO"
3) Wiley sensed that the word "Kazango" was written in the panel where the flower crashed through the tree. Wouldn't it be cool if every time you heard a sound, the sound effect would appear in the air around you? We just accept that in the comics without question and so Hart points it out to us. For some reason, you don't see this as much in animation, but when you do, it's great.
4) Kazango is an acceptable explanation for how it happened.

These kinds of absurdities would be hard to get past executives, because "it doesn't make sense".
As simple as these designs look, Hart manages to get good descriptive poses out of them, sometimes broad, othertimes - like in the above panel - subtle.
I also love Hart's lettering style.

BTW, isn't newsprint texture great for comics? They oughta bring it back for comic books.